I personally love black coffee, sometimes I add a little sugar to it, but that’s all. During my time as a barista though, I made thousands of lattes and cappuccinos. I still make one from time to time for my wife, or my guests. I used to make it with the steaming wand, from my semiautomatic, but I got lazy, and my wife wanted to be able to make it when I wasn’t there. I tried to teach her the trade, but then I realized, why bother when there is an easier way… You probably understand that. So I picked up the phone and I make a couple of calls, I made a little bit of research, and I figured out I needed a milk frother.
Milk frothers are in increasing demand, and the market responds to this demand by creating competitive products. While the market is saturated with products ranging from inexpensive, (think the price of a coffee), to very expensive, (over 100 dollars), consumers are overwhelmed with too much choices. We are going to show you what we discovered during our research, and how we decided to get one of the most expensive frothers, the Breville BMF600XL.
What Is A Milk Frother?
Steamed milk sweetens the coffee, and this is why coffee and milk beverages, such as latte and cappuccino are so popular. For most people, there should be no need to add sugar to a latte or cappuccino, because of the sugar in milk. Lactose is the most important sugar in milk, and when heated at specific temperatures, it gets sweeter. There are also fats and proteins in milk which will affect how coffee tastes. For instance, milks high in protein and fat have the greatest impact on a cup of coffee. So for a great latte we need a fatty cow’s milk, precise heating and enough frothing to get those bubbles in the milk. Sure, plant based, such as coconut, or almonds milk works too, but cow milk is the best.
A milk frother is a nifty device that allows the home barista to steam and froth milk. There are two types of milk frothers on the market, the simpler devices with just a frothing wand, and the more complex devices that can heat and froth your milk. There is no doubt that the simple devices are a compromise. While they are very inexpensive, they only foam the milk and they don’t have any heating functions. Without heating, the froth will collapse faster, and the milk will not have the sweetness associated with steamed milk. The best frothers are the ones that can heat and froth the milk at the same time. There is also the steaming wand on the espresso machine, which is designed for this.
What’s wrong with the steam wand from my espresso machine? Well, if you asked that question, you probably don’t need a milk frothing machine. You are one of the few who aren’t afraid of the weird contraption that comes out of most of the semiautomatics.
On the other hand, even for an expert there will be some benefit of using a frothing machine. The microfoam from a frothing machine is more consistent, and the you have more control over the level of foaming. You can also control the steaming temperature better. With a steam wand, you rely on your senses, and a thermometer to make sure you don’t burn the milk.
The only negative about milk frothers is that they don’t steam milk. They heat it up and create a vortex similarly to a steam wand, but there is no steam. For this reason, the taste is just a bit different, but that’s not a bad thing, it’s just different.
Frothing Milk at Home
For many, coffee is just a way to get the morning boost. Some people feel they can’t function without the daily dose of caffeine. The form and taste matters less, is just jolt that counts. As some say: “A bad coffee is still better than no coffee”. For other though, the caffeine is just the pretense to enjoy life, and have a coffee experience every day. So a bad drip coffee with a couple of cup creamers wouldn’t cut it for them. My wife and I are these people. We like great coffee, but we don’t like to get it at the coffee shop.
Looking for an easy way to steam and froth milk, my wife discovered this post on the TheKitchn.com where they show how to make frothed milk in mason jar. She quickly realized that the manual method was even more complicated than the steam wand method. Well, the method is frugal, it won’t cost you a thing; but I bet you that in a couple of days you’ll give up and get your fix at the closest Starbucks. You can probably use one of those handheld milk frothers instead of shaking the jar. If your budget is frugal, the manual frothers are a great option. We wrote a an article comparing manual milk frothers, if you want to learn more.
Enter the world of milk frothing machines. These nifty machines reduce the steaming and frothing milk to pressing a button. These units a fully automatic, and serve both as milk warmer and frother.
Why Buy a Milk Frothing Machine
The milk frother simplifies the process of steaming and frothing. Super-automatic espresso machines have built in devices that can do this for you, but not everybody affords one. And since the super-automatic is a multifunction machine the frother is more complex than it needs to be. This makes it less reliable. The froth maker as a separate appliance is less complex than the frothing mechanism in a super-automatic. This makes it less expensive, and more reliable. From this perspective, it makes more sense to buy an espresso machine and a milk frother, then a super-automatic. Nespresso has figured this out a while ago, and this is why their bundles, like Nespresso Inissia, sell very well.
To many, the milk frothing is just a nice to have, but for others, it is a must have. Sure, you can heat up your milk and mix it with coffee, but that is not even close to a real latte. Yeah, I get it, for some the latte art is just useless. Milk frothing however, is even for the pragmatic, a must for the perfect cappuccino. Beyond the artsy side of the process, frothed milk adds new dimensions to your daily caffeinated beverage. The texture is what hits you immediately, even as a non gourmet person. As you drink more though, you will notice the delicate sweetness of the frothed milk. That taste is the result of heating the milk at the right temperature. Just a slight temperature change will ruin it.
Milk frothers will help you nail the perfect microfoam in your milk. They also prevent ruining the froth from scalding. They deliver consistent results every time. The price for the device will range from inexpensive to expensive. The quality of the machine depends on the preference of the purchaser. In the rest of the article we will be exploring three different milk frothers. We will compare them, looking at the pros and cons of each.
Breville Milk Café Frother – My Personal Favorite
The Breville BMF600XL is my favorite, and we actually bought this for ourselves. It’s the most expensive of the bunch, but it’s the one that has the most features, and it is designed for results, and not for price. It’s the same approach they took with the Breville BES980XL Oracle. They designed a desirable product, not looking to make the most price competitive one.
- You can set the milk temperature and foam quality
- Easy to use and intuitive dial
- The induction heating system heats the milk up very fast
- Automatic frothing, one button touch operation
- The cold stir setting allows you to get cold frothed milk
- Generous 3 cups capacity
- Two separate attachments: one for latte and one cappuccino help you get the perfect froth for your beverage
- Beautiful, compact design
Easy to operate, large enough to prepare milk for a few guests, and great looking. Makes perfect steamed milk for latte, or frothy milk for cappuccino.
Secura Milk Frother – Best Value
Secura is a budget milk frother, at an unbeatable price. It holds half the volume of a Breville, and the temperature is not adjustable. The volume is the biggest disadvantage, since it’s pretty tedious to make lattes for your guests with a small unit. It comes in two sizes 250 and 300 ml. The extra 50 ml would help to get enough steamed milk for two beverages.
The temperature adjusting on the Breville unit is a great feature, I am using it very often. Many people, however, never use it. So if you know you are going to froth milk for a couple of people, Secura might be a great choice.
There is another slight disadvantage with the Secura: the jug tends to form a layer of burnt milk. It’s pretty easy to clean it, if you have to shop on a low budget. I personally wanted to avoid cleaning that, I always hated the burnt milk film on my pots and pans.
All in all the Secura milk frother is a great deal, that you can’t pass if you are looking to buy a device on a budget. It’s the least expensive from the reviewed units, and it works perfectly. The 2 year warranty helps you decide, if you think about reliability.
Nespresso Aeroccino Plus Milk Frother
A slightly more expensive frother, the Nespresso Aeroccino is an upgrade to the Secura. The Aeroccino jug is easier to clean, and the burnt milk that forms after steaming is thinner on the Nespresso’s frother.
I found the Aeroccino jug too small for our needs, and this why it wasn’t our choice. The daily latte routine could be easily covered with the Aeroccino, but if we had any guests it would have been too small. The other nice thing about the Aeroccino is the speed. It can deliver steamed milk in 70 seconds, that’s almost twice as fast as the Secura.
This unit froths a little hotter than the Secura, but not by much. It is just the right temperature to avoid scalding the milk.
The texture of the unit is great, comparable with any other frother. I attribute this to the two whisks, which are perfectly designed. The two whisks lock in place grace to a magnetic system, so changing them is a snap.
If you want a fully featured frother, that is a pleasure to work with, the Breville Milk Café is the best choice. With many details and improvements, it will make your coffee routine a pleasure. The milk container is dishwasher-safe, you can adjust you frothing temperature, and the jug has a decent volume.
The Aeroccino is in between, a decent alternative, at a decent price.